No, 9mm Is Not A ‘One Size Fits All’ Defensive Caliber

There’s a tendency among gun owners to follow whatever law enforcement does when it comes to selecting a firearm for defense. When the police carried revolvers, many civilians had a revolver (yes, that’s mostly what was available at the time). When police departments  switched to semi-auto pistols, the civilian world largely followed over time (with a few really obsessive holdouts, like these guys). We can see a similar thing with shotguns gradually falling out of favor for home defense in favor of the AR-15 in recent years

Calibers are the same way. Many people carried .357 Magnum or .38 Special when the police did. Later, 9mm was the thing, followed by .40 S&W when it became a popular law enforcement round. Now that the FBI and many state and local cop shops have moved back to 9mm, the civilian CCW market is following (resulting in some sweet deals on lightly used police guns if you’re still into .40).

There are some obvious drawbacks to the approach of following cops around. One’s defensive needs will obviously differ from that of someone who’s job entails being out and looking for trouble.

The 9mm caliber may be too much for some shooters (especially in micro compact pistols). I have a relative with a serious wrist condition who loves to carry and shoot .380, and no amount of “But the cops carry 9mm!” is going to undo the cumulative effect of several injuries and surgeries.

I know that 9mm fanatics and advocates understand that there are unusual circumstances, like someone who can’t handle 9mm, or someone who lives in the woods and needs to defend against bears. I’m not going to raise a straw man here.

Absent unusual circumstances, they’re still arguing that 9mm is the superior choice for most urban and suburban defensive needs (“nine in the hoods, ten in the woods”). Not only are the cops carrying that now, but gel tests show little advantage to .40 S&W or .45 ACP these days, while the disadvantages of those larger bore calibers (recoil and capacity) are still present.

So you’re probably a “boomer” if you carry “.45 AARP” or you’re a 90’s kid if you’re packing something chambered for .40 S&W or .357 SIG. It’s time to live in 2022 and carry Parabellum.

But, as a writer, it’s never interesting to feed the sacred cows. Plus, we need people to question those dogmas to keep ourselves from falling into a rut or making bad decisions. So, I’m going to present some alternative data and ideas on the idea that 9mm is a good “one size fits most” round. I’m not going to argue that 9mm isn’t a great choice for many shooters (it obviously is), but I am going to argue that we shouldn’t discourage people from looking at other calibers and making different choices.

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